A double standard in principles creates state budget woes

The state budget beat goes on.

Gov. Tom Wolf lets a $32 billion spending plan become law without his signature.

Lawmakers are left with a $2 billion gap between the spending plan and available revenues.

Unwilling to raise taxes and uncomfortable with a battery of alternatives, lawmakers go home.

This is not what residents of Pennsylvania deserve.

At this point, all we know is that there eventually will be a budget deal and it probably will be something at least slightly unpalatable to everyone.

And that’s frustrating, because we would bet some rolled-up-sleeves work free of political obstacles would reveal that the $2 billion gap does not have to be $2 billion.

The track record of state and federal governments tethered to lobbyists and political interests suggests that a detailed accounting of actual expenditures with real needs and requirements as the top priority would produce a smaller budget.

Businesses adjust to expense and revenue pressures. Governments, encumbered by bureaucracy and election realities, don’t do that nearly so well. That’s the track record.

We think the best medicine to cure this late-budget sickness would be a budget equal to the revenues that seem to be logically available – $30 billion. Perhaps the pressure to then operate the state during the fiscal year in such a way that the state does not run out of money would force everyone to pay attention to everything the money is being spent on and how much.

Everyone else – from families to small businesses to large businesses – operates that way. Otherwise, they don’t survive economically.

It’s time government personnel were forced to start operating in the same way as the people they so conveniently get to tax and levy fees against every time they are in a jam.

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